Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” ends a remarkable season on a high note, with an action packed episode that nevertheless also delivers a great emotional punch, as Alina takes back her power, the Crows join her on a fight we never expected to see them become part of, and The Darkling is defeated – though, of course not for long.
All in all, season one of Shadow and Bone is an outstanding adaptation, especially for the things it does to separate itself from the source material. I’m often a book purist, especially when I love the books, and it might be a combination of me not having loved the Shadow and Bone trilogy as much (but loving the rest of the books) and this think called maturity that allows me to say what I’m about to say, but here it goes: It’s okay that they deviated in some things. In fact, this was the best possible adaptation they could make.
Some things just don’t translate as well – things they had to put words to if they wanted them to be understood, aka Kaz Brekker, and things that they had to turn the spotlight on for them to work, aka Malyen Oretsev. And if you loved the book version more, if it speaks to you more, it will always be there. This is …not the same, but it’s as close as they could get while still attracting a larger audience.
And attract one they have. Hopefully – and by the early numbers this looks like a sure thing – one large enough to secure us not just the full Shadow and Bone trilogy, but even more of the Grishaverse. If so, then maybe we will have to compromise on more changes to the books going forward. But that’s not a discussion for now. Today let us just focus on the end of this story and the setup for the next one that Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” does.
AND WHAT CAN YOU REALLY DO ON YOUR OWN?
The Darkling has gone full villain in Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” and it works. Not to make him sympathetic, he’s long past even trying to be that. Not to make me ship him with Alina – that ship sailed long ago, but if it hadn’t, the way he’s basically controlling her during Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” would have clinched it. It works in a storytelling way, however, because the show has done a very effective job of showing us how good intentions sometimes turn into the worst mistakes, and are then compounded by bad decisions in the quest to fix that one original error.
“Your power is mine now,” The Darkling tells Alina as he looks around the skiff and revels in what he’s achieved. And it’s not even about her power, though part of it is. It’s about what her power represents. A chance for the peace, and the respect the Grisha always had to fight for. A chance for the life Luda never got to live, the life he’s wanted for his people for so long.
And yet, time and hardship has perverted The Darkling’s original goal. He doesn’t want peace anymore, he doesn’t just want Grisha to be able to live in peace, and train and use their powers. He wants Grisha to rule. Oppression has bred an anger at the world that has always treated him – and his people – like they were worth less, when in his mind, they were always worth more.
“Why would we destroy the Fold? It’s the greatest weapon that we’ve got,” he tells Alina, and though we’ve suspected for a while his intentions were something other than pure, it’s still a striking moment, as Ben Barnes commands all attention. “There will be no more war with Ravka. All countries will answer to us,” he adds, and though it goes unsaid, what it means is, they’ll answer to me. Because he’s going to rule Grisha – and by doing so, he’s going to rule the world.
However, that doesn’t mean he wants to rule alone. We’ve talked before about how there’s no way Alina could have chosen him, not really, as he never allowed her an actual choice. But that doesn’t mean a part of him doesn’t want Alina, didn’t wish that she had indeed chosen him. Just because he can’t understand why she wouldn’t choose him doesn’t mean a part of him didn’t truly want her to. In a way, that’s the real tragedy of The Darkling’s story. He is to blame for all the things he doesn’t have. Only him, no one else.
Which is why it’s the height of irony when the fake-out to end season one, the “death” of The Darkling, has Mal saying “I don’t have to kill you, your past will do it for me.” In a fair world, it should. And to be fair, this is not the end of the story. But one thing is for sure, whatever the future might bring for The Darkling, it is not up to Mal to end him or to save Ravka. It is up to Alina. And though she might not be ready for that battle yet, she will be.
I’M NOT DONE TORMENTING YOU
A part of me was super excited when I saw where the Nina and Matthias story was picking up from, and a part of me was terrified. Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” was the reason for that second feeling. Because just when we’re at the top, truly at the top, with both Nina and Matthias literally their best selves, reality catches up to them, and reality just isn’t very accepting of the common ground they managed to find.
They know it, too. As they sit in that room together, and discuss the possibility of going “somewhere beyond Ravka? Beyond Fjerda?” you can sense that this is all temporary. Hurdles are coming. But you still want to hang onto that moment, as Danielle and Calahan play it perfectly, their chemistry going from fire to soft and familiar almost seamlessly.
For Matthias, even the possibility of abandoning everything to be with Nina, to become a different person than the one he grew up being, is huge. He’s choosing not just to leave behind hate, he’s choosing to leave behind the things that shaped him, the things that gave him purpose. Which means he’ll need to find a new purpose – and a person cannot be your purpose, so he’ll have to find that outside of Nina. But as we dwell on how big this is for him, let’s not discount what it means for Nina too, who is willing to leave the fight, leave her people, just to be with this man.
“You’ll come to like being happy” Nina tells him, but this is not a self-fulfilling prophecy. Matthias doesn’t get to be happy for long, he only gets a few moments with some waffles and the woman he’s let convince him to try something different, and then Fedyor is there and Nina is forced to make a choice. Matthias or the life she was living before. Matthias or comfort, companionship, the embrace of friends. Matthias or respect.
To her credit, Nina doesn’t hesitate. And though she can’t win this fight with her powers, she can win it with words. Or, well, maybe not win it, as we see at the end of Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” – but at least leave open that possibility. If Matthias had been captured and taken to General Kirigan, he would have been killed. Nina saves his life, even if in doing so she ends up putting in a position she knows he might not be able to forgive her for. For him, Nina’s willing to take that chance.
She’ll put up with his hate if she has to, as long as he’s alive to feel it.
IF HE ISN’T WITH KIRIGAN’S CREW, HE’S WITH OURS
Mal teams up with the Crows for the final fight – and isn’t that the best line I’ve written in these reviews so far? This goes about as well as you expect, with the well-oiled machine of Kaz, Inej and Jesper running into Mal’s brand of desperation and sheer stubbornness. This, of course, turns out to be an explosive combination with Inej’s desire to help Alina and Jesper’s need to be in the middle of things, so much so than in the end even Kaz is like, okay, you know what, if no one’s gonna listen to me, I’m just gonna have to do the dumb thing too.
“Who would oppose us now?” The Darkling asks, just as Mal steps forward to do just that, and this is an important message, even if Mal would have been better off coming up with a plan, or at least listening to Kaz. One of the things that gives villains, bullies and the like their power, is fear. And because we all fear them, we keep quiet. We don’t defy them. That makes them stronger.
But for Alina, Mal steps forward even when that isn’t the smart play. And for Inej and Jesper, Kaz sticks his neck out, and just reacts. This goes much better for Kaz, who manages to save Jesper (and let it be pointed out has to willingly touch him to do so), than for Mal, who is only saved by circumstances and by the people around him. But in the end, this unlikely crew + Zoya manages to, if not save the day, at least live to fight another one. And considering they were in the middle of the Fold and going against the most powerful Grisha who has ever lived, that feels like a tall order.
HELP ME STOP HIM
I just read Rule of Wolves less than a month ago, it’s impossible for me not to be emotional at the sight of Zoya and Inej working together. These two are my favorite female characters in the Grishaverse, and to see that sense that the books leave you with, that they’d be amazing together, come to pass on screen, is a beautiful feeling.
Especially as Zoya and Inej come to their moment of understanding, their moment of working together, as enemies. And yet they recognize in each other that common goal, and not much has to be said. They just do what needs to be done, and have each other’s backs, as much as they possibly can. Zoya directly defies the Darkling by making the skiff move again, and Inej throws a knife straight at his heart – a knife that doesn’t do the damage she expected, but that will help Alina free herself from his power, and ultimately save everyone.
Zoya’s decision to go against The Darkling isn’t easy, but in truth, he shouldn’t have expected any differently from her, not after the way he’d treated her and kept her out of the loop on his plans. He never truly trusted Zoya after Alina came into his life, and though her actions would prove him correct, they still underscore one of the main issues about The Darkling – he doesn’t trust anyone, not really. But he can’t do it all, so every now and then, he needs to rely on people.
Nothing could have saved him from Zoya’s anger, though, not after destroying Novosibirsk and presumably killing Zoya’s aunt. Book readers know what this woman has meant to Zoya, and her loss – and The Darkling’s actions – will be the catalyst for a new Zoya, one that can accept Inej’s kindness and not look down on her, one that can let herself be hugged by Alina and respond with “I still don’t like you, but I am grateful for you.”
Because this Zoya knows that the fight is anything but over. And she – Ravka, the Grisha, will need Alina in the coming days. Before the fight, however, there’s something she needs to do. Something she needs to check. And Kaz tries to get her to stop, because Kaz, of all people, knows what it’s like to come face to face with the ghosts of your dead relatives. It’s not something he would wish on anyone.
“It’s dangerous to go looking for the dead. What you see may haunt you for the rest of your days,” he warns her, and Zoya seems to truly see him for the first time as he says this. But she still has to go. She still has to try. Sometimes, it’s better to be haunted than to live in doubt. That’s not Kaz’s lesson, though, it’s hers. And I don’t think Zoya will regret her decision.
I’VE NEVER MET A SAINT BEFORE
The little glimpse we get of Inej and Alina in Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” will sustain me for years to come, especially as these are two characters who never get a chance to spend time together in the books, two characters that always felt like they would have been great friends, if they’d had the chance. And in this episode, it feels like the writers agree with me, as Inej makes clear to Alina that “wherever you are, whatever you need, my hand is yours,” something I’m about 200% sure will come to play later in this show, and Alina gifts Inej with a knife.
Alina and Inej aren’t friends, not yet. They just met each other, and Inej is still looking at her like a Saint, not a woman she could truly be friends with. But there’s a mutual respect in their interaction, the respect of two women who’ve been knocked down by the world, and have managed to stand up again. And though their paths diverge in the books, if there’s one reason to hope things don’t always stick as close to the original material as they could, it’s this possibility.
I’VE NEVER BEEN A SAINT BEFORE
Alina takes back her power during Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” and in reclaiming that, she establishes the person she wants to be going forward. “You may have needed me, but I never needed you,” she tells Kirigan, a flex if I’ve ever heard one, and she stands there on that skiff and just …fights. It’s amazing to see, especially as the entire season has been leading up to Alina finally owning her power.
It’s more than not being afraid of what she can do, though, this Alina finally feels the responsibility her power entails, and she embraces it. And though she might not be ready now, that means that Alina is going to work at being ready to, one day, be the person who can destroy the Fold. For her people, for her country. For everyone who’s suffered, like she did, at the hands of The Darkling.
This, of course, means that she has to take care of the pesky Crows problem before, easily solved by dispensing with what is apparently a very expensive and very ugly necklace, and shaking hands with Kaz. “The deal is the deal,” he says, and I don’t know about you, but I believe him. He won’t go after Alina, and she can hide away, train, get stronger, and maybe, some day, do what she was meant to do.
“It’s you and me now.” She tells Mal, at the end of Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners.” “Like old times.” And as Mal responds that he likes those odds, Alina looks strangely peaceful for a girl wearing a powerful amplifier that was literally meant for her, and with, you know, the weight of possibly saving a country on her shoulders. Probably because she doesn’t know this is a fantasy adaptation, and that means the villain is never truly gone until the main character actually does the killing.
MY PROMISE TO YOU
Kaz made a promise to Inej last episode, and back then it felt very much like a Kaz promise, and by that I mean that he would do anything, he’d make a plan, he’d find a way, he’d get the job done, and he’d save Inej. But when the easy choice presents itself, just take deal Alina is offering, let her go, and therefore fulfill the promise to Inej …well, I wasn’t sure he would do it, and Inej clearly wasn’t either. Her eyes tell the whole story, as they have for the entirety of this show, because Amita Suman is an amazing performer, who delivers a wealth of emotion in every look.
She focuses on Kaz as he talks to Zoya, as he tries to stop her from going to check on her family, and though Kaz doesn’t admit to anything, Inej knows him enough to read his own pain in the warning he gives Zoya. But she also knows him enough not bring that up. Instead of deflecting, or ignoring, though, Inej confronts him about the only thing she feels comfortable confronting him about – the job. “What’s your angle?” she asks, as he points out the deal with Alina. Because Inej knows – has always known – how to ask for what she wants in her relationship with Kaz.
I’m pretty sure the last thing Inej would have seen coming was Kaz’s response. They’ve built an entire relationship out of not saying things, out of maybe alluding to things obliquely, and only as a last resort, so when Kaz admits he did it for her, to keep his promise to her, Inej almost breaks, and for a second there, she can’t contain her happiness. This is more than she ever thought she’d get from Kaz, and a part of her cannot even process the words – much less what they mean.
Kaz Brekker isn’t exactly suave during Shadow and Bone season one, and I’d wager absolutely everyone on this show, even people who’ve known them 0.2 seconds, like Zoya, know that he Kaz would do anything for Inej. He literally jumped in front of a volcra for her, so it’s hard to argue at this point that he doesn’t care. But this is still an easier thing to process for people outside of their dynamics than it is for Inej. She knows what she wants, what she needs, but she also knows gambling on someone’s affection is the riskier gamble of them all.
We focus a lot on Kaz’s issues as we examine these two, but Inej’s issues also play a big role here. Why would the girl who was stolen, sold and passed around from man to man instinctively trust someone who has insisted, time and time again, that his only God is profit? Someone who just managed to obliquely reference caring about her last episode, and who had to compare her to a bird to do it?
She shouldn’t. She wants to, but she can’t. Not fully.
But Kaz isn’t done, because when points out the obvious – she should go with Alina – Kaz counters with “I need you,” not exactly the most famous three words to convey affection, but three words that are even more powerful to her at that moment than the most affectionate ones would be. Because these words she can believe. These words she can accept. And with these words she can move forward, she can be what he needs her to be. She was always his Wraith, but now Inej is truly the Wraith we met in Six of Crows, because this Inej …well, she’s let herself care. She’s accepted that side of her.
The words Kaz manages aren’t what they could be – but they still mean so much. In a way, they’re even bigger than a love declaration. Because Kaz Brekker doesn’t need anyone. He’s survived in the Barrel without her, and a big part of Inej feels he’d do it again, if he had to. But behind that “I need is you,” is another sentiment, one that Inej can now accept. “I want you.” Kaz doesn’t just need her to stay, even if he does, he wants her to stay. Which, coincidentally, is also what Inej wants.
She can’t put it into bigger words any more than he can, though, so she makes it sound like it’s temporary, continues this game they play of never fully admitting they’d basically die – and kill – for each other. But the truth is written in every line of Kaz’s face, in every look Inej throws his way, in every little moment when it seems like just standing next to each other is enough to sustain them. This is love, not that they’d be willing to put that word to it, not that they are yet anywhere near coming to accept it.
More words will be needed. Kaz knows it, it’s written all over his face basically every second of Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners,” even after Inej confirms she’s staying. That’s part of why, in the ship back to Ketterdam, he calls Alina a Saint, to Inej’s face, and then, allows himself a small smile as he says it. It’s a tiny moment of surrender, and it might not seem like a lot, but Inej seems to recognize it for what it is: a stubborn boy trying to prove that, despite the life he’s had, despite the things he’s done, he’s still not totally lost. She doesn’t have to give up on him.
TRUE WEALTH IS THE FRIENDS YOU MAKE ALONG THE WAY
I’ll end with the Crows, because Jesper’s quote underscores how important it was to have Kaz, Inej and Jesper there, how much the Crows added to the storyline. Without them, the story of the Grisha, the stag, the amplifiers, and The Darkling could have been too dark, and too slow. With them, however, balance was perfectly struck, and everyone had a chance to shine.
But Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners” also gave us some important moments in the Crows dynamics, beyond how cool it was to see them actually fight The Darkling and the Grisha who supported him. First, Kaz gets to prove that, despite all evidence to the contrary, Inej isn’t the only one he cares about, as he literally saves Jesper’s life, not even thinking about the amount of physical contact that requires. This is a big moment for a relationship that started rather icily and never really thawed to the point where you thought, oh yes, Kaz obviously cares, and it bodes well for what future seasons of this show can do with their brotherly bond.
Kaz is much better at showing he cares than saying it, though, that much is clear when, after saving Jesper, he casually steps in front of a volcra for Inej, as you do when you don’t want her to know you consider her more than an investment. 🙄🙄
These things aren’t brought up again during Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners,” because of course they aren’t, but the Crows end the season a much more compact unit than where they started it. Yes, there’s camaraderie, yes, there’s friendship, but there’s also a sense of found family to them, one that, perhaps, took a bit longer in the books, but one that I absolutely do not mind the show giving to me now. Because if this is what season 1 brings, the possibilities for the future are endless.
Things I think I think:
- One of these days I’ll be over the way Inej keeps looking back at Kaz to silently check on him/with him. Today is not that day.
- “I should have brought Milo.”/ ”Who’s Milo?”/ ”The goat!”
- Nina + waffles is the greatest love story in this universe.
- Kaz not liking The Darkling is a whole ass mood.
- And he DID notice the feet.
- “I know that look. He’s a man consumed by vengeance.”/”See it enough in the mirror, do you?”
- OKAY, BUT WHAT DOES JESPER KNOW?
- Feel bad for Zlatan, personally, I do not.
- But the city. The people.
- Suddenly no one listens to Kaz! If there’s one reason I need season 2 it’s for Kaz the mastermind, and everyone listening to him.
- “I never said I was smart.”
- They literally killed everyone. Casual genocide!
- “Shame. I’ll have to give that speech again.”
- Jokes after you casually murder a bunch of people!
- Kaz’s FINE, I’LL FOLLOW YOU face.
- Yeah, black blood, totally normal.
- Fuck you, Ivan. Sincerely, and from the bottom of my heart.
- “Remember your place” my ass.
- Jesper didn’t shoot the pretty face, but he did shoot.
- Why couldn’t he kill Mal? Did the cut miss?
- The way Kaz gingerly takes the necklace from Alina is A+.
- “Not going will haunt me more.” Oh, Zoya.
- “What did we learn? People with trains are evil. You can’t kidnap a human sunbeam. And maybe, just maybe, greed is a poor motivator.”
- “Tell me you have a plan. I don’t care if it’s a lie.”
- Kaz always has a plan. His plans have plans.
- They need a Heartrender. Lucky Nina is around.
- “And when I’m strong enough, we’ll come back, together. And tear it down. Now that The Darkling is dead.”
- And he’s got his little monster children.
- I will call them that, cause Nichevo’ya has too many letters. I’m lazy.
What did you think about Shadow and Bone 1×08 “No Mourners”? Share with us in the comments below!
Shadow and Bone is available to stream on Netflix.